When actress Shay Mitchell launched her travel brand BÉIS in 2018, travel was not laden with the nuanced challenges it is today in a recovering pandemic world. When 2020 hit, President of BÉIS Adeela Hussain Johnson worked side by side with Shay to navigate the big upheaval in their space – if people weren’t traveling, if people couldn’t travel, what did the business need to do to adapt? It’s a question they answered together, and answered really, really well.
From idea conception to launching, building and running BÉIS, Adeela and the small but growing team at BÉIS have shifted, modified, and adapted their products, content marketing, and strategies to almost pandemic-proof the brand, despite its foundation in the travel space.
Adeela is here to talk about content marketing and the strategies you can use in your own business, whether you’re a product- or service-based brand, as well as the changing role of influencers and how your brand can carve out a niche in a crowded market, even if you’re not a big celeb.
EARLY LIFE PHILOSOPHIES
I wanted to start off our conversation by asking Adeela where her story began and if she saw any clues in her early life or career that hinted at the work she’s doing today. She tells me, “Hindsight is 20/20, right? So you can look back and be like, ‘oh, were these moments, was that what did it? Did it set me here? I’m a super firm believer that in life, everything happens for a reason.”
“I was born in Pakistan, raised in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, immigrant, moved to the United States when I was 10. I bring that up because my father, who is very much a role model for me, and my mother, both of them gave up a lot at that point in their lives. My father had a career already as a doctor, had many years under his belt, had to start all the way over to give us the opportunity to live out what we all call the American Dream.”
“What it built for me very early in my life is, nothing comes easy. You know, you have to work for things that you want and if you wanna be successful, it takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of sacrifice and it takes a lot of compromise. If I’m talking about hindsight, I think those philosophies and those approaches are very applicable in business and very applicable especially as a working mom in the business world. And so a lot of those are just core to who I am and I think have shaped the decisions I’ve made, the path I’ve taken.”
PIVOTING INTO HER NICHE
Adeela started her career as a financial planner, but ended up leaving the financial industry when she didn’t see a path forward for her as a female leader. She went on to business school with the aim of finding her place in the business world, even if she didn’t know exactly where that would be yet, and after completing her program, Adeela surprised herself by taking the leap to a startup company and discovering she loved it. “Moving into startup world is amazing because you get this autonomy and this entrepreneurial and you truly just own things very different from what can happen in a very large corporation, and I loved that. I never knew I would love it as much as I did, but I loved it.”
All of Adeela’s knowledge and experiences set her up perfectly for another pivot into influencer-led brands, and when she met Shay Mitchell that’s when her entrepreneurial niche became clear. About meeting Shay, Adeela says, “She was so personable, so approachable, and she just said, ‘I want to build a brand and I want to be an entrepreneur.’ And we said, ‘well, what are you passionate about? What do you love to do?’ And that just evolved, it grew, and it almost naturally came to this place of travel.” She finishes, “It was such a natural synergy of talent, of experience, of interest, of passion, that we decided to build a brand together.”
Creating marketing content that tells a story
Shay and Adeela launched their travel and lifestyle brand BÉIS in 2018 with great success, but the 2020 pandemic came along shortly after and put their adaptability skills to the test. Luckily, Adeela is an expert in the pivot, and she and Shay worked together to create products that people would still need in their day-to-day lives even if they weren’t traveling far distances. Adeela’s ability to anticipate customer needs even during an unprecedented global event speaks to her incredible understanding of how to create and market content in a way that sells a lifestyle while always staying true to the brand.
Adeela says, “I think when it comes to content, it’s all about like lead with your strength, lead with what consumers know you for or you what you want consumers to know you for, and then figure out what’s the tone and what’s the look and feel. That takes away kind of like the seriousness of what you’re doing, and then that takes away from the salesy piece of it. It’s not product, product, product, you want people to buy into a lifestyle. You want people to buy into a brand beyond just the product. And so you need to exude that. And the best way to do that in our environment today is content. Show them the lifestyle that is your brand.”
She goes on, “You have to tell a story with whatever you’re doing. Any marketing content needs to tell a story, needs to tell your story. Have that story, tell that story. Have kind of a message that you’re trying to send and send it. Be fun with it, be kind of lighthearted, and what works, you’ll know. You’ll know super quickly and then continue to find ways to replicate that.”
BUILDING A TEAM
Adeela gave so many helpful pieces of advice during our conversation, but above all she emphasized the importance of having the support of a strong team. “When building a business, you have to invest in the people, there is no other way. And this business is absolutely successful because we have an exceptional product, but an exceptional product doesn’t sell itself and it doesn’t produce itself, and it doesn’t come to market on its own. It is the team. And the same way you would as an influencer or as a business person, seek out to find the team that can support and compliment skills and be experts in what they do. You have to invest there. You have to nourish there, and you have to make sure that’s where your time and resources are going because that is why we are successful.”
Adeela says that if there’s any advice she can leave us with, it’s this: “Find the niche that you play in, don’t try to be everything to everybody, hire experts to fill in the gaps, and then let people do their jobs.”
More from Adeela
This is just the very beginning of our incredible conversation on content marketing and building a brand that can withstand anything, press play to hear more from Adeela Hussain Johnson. You can also follow their brand BÉIS on Instsagram and TikTok @beis to hear about upcoming launches, and you can check out their diverse portfolio on their website at beistravel.com.